Breaking News
More () »

'We're going to have to be strong together' | Community remembers Union County 15-year-old killed

On Friday, the school plans to hold a moment of silence for Zaria Burgess before the football game. The 15-year-old was found dead Sunday morning.

MONROE, N.C. — The beat stopped for the Monroe High Marching Band as they mourned the loss of one of their friends and bandmates killed over the weekend.

"There's strength in numbers and we're going to have to be strong together," band director Alan Sturdivant said.

Zaria Burgess was 15 years old and a rising sophomore. Sturdivant says she danced through life with a smile.

"Bubbly, very bubbly," he said.

Burgess was found dead in her father's home on Sunday morning. Detectives say he raped and killed her, then turned himself in to the sheriff's office and confessed.

"A lot of tears, a lot of emotions," Sturdivant said. "I cried, I cried last night, I'm still crying."

Burgess was a member of the band last year but dropped out early in the season, Sturdivant said. One day, when he was filling in for another teacher, he saw Burgess in the class as asked her if she would come back.

"And she said, 'Well, what am I gonna do?' And I said, 'Well, why don't you dance?'" he told NBC Charlotte. "She said, 'Well, what's that?'"

They spent the period looking at videos of the dance team. By the end, Burgess was convinced.

"On the day of auditions she wowed me," he said.

Sturdivant showed NBC Charlotte one of the last videos of Burgess alive. She was practicing with the band and dancers during camp last week.

Burgess was one of the hardest workers on the team, and Sturdivant said she always remained positive.

"Everything she did, she had the same smile all the time," he said.

The band paid tribute to Burgess on Monday, showing up to spirit week wearing blue -- her favorite color.

On Friday, the school plans to hold a moment of silence before the football game. They are encouraging everyone to wear blue, finding a way to march forward together.

"Together, we're going to be able to make it through this," Sturdivant said.


Before You Leave, Check This Out